Do I believe in UFOs? That's not the point. I was drowning in Trump mania and decided to escape to the more benign craziness of believers in aliens from outer space.
So there I was at the We-Ko-Pa Resort and Conference Center in Fountain Hills, Arizona, for the International UFO Congress, the largest UFO-related gathering in the country. The hundreds of mostly middle-aged white attendees in jeans and t-shirts looked ordinary enough -- no tin-foil hats or anti-gravity boots. What a relief to see so many Americans gathered together for a more level-headed purpose than politics!
We heard lectures including, "Marilyn Monroe, the CIA and UFOs" and "Ancient Aliens and Megalithic Construction." I figured that if I could fill my brain with Marilyn Monroe and UFOs, then throw in a few megaliths, there would be no room left for my hysteria about the Trumpapocalypse.
I was wrong. I soon discovered who the hundreds of avid listeners around me saw as the enemy. One lecture spelled it out: "Inside the Black Vault: A Two-Decade Journey into Government Secrecy." The monster that this legion of UFO believers loathed wasn't some slimy, bug-eyed alien, but the even more slippery U.S. government and the multi-tentacled media.
At the UFO Congress, I found myself swimming in the same gumbo of mistrust and resentment of the Establishment that spews out at every Trump rally. Looking around me at the sullen, white, largely blue-collar men and women, I knew which earthling they would vote for.
I could hear the thump of Trump, smell the creature panting and salivating. I had to escape.
I fled down the hall to a support group for victims whom I was sure would be too traumatized to worry about earthly politics. It could have been called "AA" for Abductees Anonymous. On the door a sign warned, "No press or media allowed."
"Does anyone have something they want to share?" The cheerful hypnotherapist running the abduction support group gently nudged. "You are safe here."
Earlier that morning, I had learned how the abduction thing works: snatched and taken aboard a spacecraft, humans undergo examination and surgery performed by their alien captors known as "grays," "reptilians" and "insectilians." Often, the humans are injected with alien DNA, which makes them give birth to "hybrids." Now a handful of abductees stood up, one by one, and as they put it, "came out."
"I had an encounter with a gray, its skin like a reptile. I wanted to shake its hand but I couldn't. It only had three fingers..."
"I was abducted. I have alien children..."
"I woke up with orange orbs floating in my room. They took out a big needle..."
"I saw a being come through the wall. The ship was parked above a tree like a soap bubble..."
"They watched me. I had the feeling of being turned into one of them. I felt feelers on top of my head!"
Okay, on the face of it, the abductees' stories sounded less than credible. But crazy or not, one common thread ran through them: the alien abduction they experienced was nothing short of wondrous. Transcendent.
I had expected the gleam of terror in their eyes. Instead, I found pride. For a reason they did not understand, they had been chosen, blessed to be in the thrall of beings more all-knowing and all-powerful than mere mortals.
We broke for lunch. Dazed, I stepped out onto a sunlit patio and sat down next to an elderly lady in green velour, with bright red hair. She clutched a three-ring binder crammed with hundreds of pages. The volume had been entrusted to her by an alien, she explained, and was written in the alien's language. Whether or not she understood the book's jumbled hieroglyphics didn't seem to matter. Simply holding the book in her hands made her feel that she possessed wisdom that was more than human. No wonder she seemed so serene: An alien being found order and meaning where human eyes saw only chaos!
She watched the other UFO enthusiasts around her fueling up on tacos and Dr. Peppers, and turned to me with a triumphant smile: "How nice to finally be among normal people!"
She was right. This is the New Normal. Maddened by a frustrating, brutal, overheated existence, Americans are ready to surrender our pitiful planet. It's the new normal to pin our hopes on an Alien Overlord, a Master of the Universe who, with a wave of his hand, really can conjure a thousand-mile wall out of thin air, zap ISIS with a death ray, and vaporize eleven million "Mexican rapists;" a billionaire with the mojo to defy all earthly laws of logic, physics -- and human decency!
Our E.T. monster lacks bug eyes, antennae and green skin. And yet, our very own foul-mouthed, orange-tufted oaf poses an interstellar threat. He doesn't hover overhead in a flying saucer. Instead, he swoops down on us in a gold-plated 757 labeled "Trump."